New Georgia Procedure for Appealing Decisions of Lower Judicatories to State or Superior Court Takes Effect July 1, 2023

Georgia petition to review

Effective July 1, 2023, Georgia House Bill 916 (2022), the “Superior and State Court Appellate Practice Act,” will repeal and replace Georgia’s complex notice of appeal and certiorari review statutes (former O.C.G.A. §§ 5-3-1 et seq.; 5-4-1 et seq.) with a unified “Petition for Review” procedure for appealing cases from a lower judicatory to superior or state court. O.C.G.A. §§ 5-3-1 to 5-3-21.

The new “Petition for Review” procedure is a single, modern, uniform, logical, and relatively simplified process for superior or state court review of lower judicial and quasi-judicial decisions. O.C.G.A. § 5-3-2(b)(1). Its purpose is to simplify the process to appeal decisions to Georgia’s state trial courts from municipal courts, magistrate courts, non-Article 6 probate courts, and other lower judicatories. Id.; § 5-3-4. A “lower judicatory” is broadly defined to include any government official or body “exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers authorized by law.” O.C.G.A. § 5-3-3(5)-(6).

The goal of the new Act was to eliminate antiquated processes (like a writ of certiorari) and dovetail with the Civil Practice Act. The old process of appealing a decision of a city court, zoning board, local planning commission, or local licensing board, for example, was impossibly complicated. There were many procedural traps for the unwary.

In enacting the new Act, the Georgia legislature found “that many appeals from a lower judicatory to a superior or state court result in dismissal on complex procedural grounds and not a decision on the merits.” O.C.G.A. § 5-3-2(a). Accordingly, the intent of the new Act is to “[i]ncrease access to justice through the greater resolution of appeals on the basis of substantive issues rather than on complex procedural grounds.” O.C.G.A. § 5-3-2(b)(2).

The new Act aims to foster appellate review of decisions from the state’s lower courts, administrative law judges, and government agencies, dealing with issues such as traffic infringements and land use. In general, a petition for review must be filed within 30 days after the final judgment of the lower judicatory, unless stated otherwise. O.C.G.A. § 5-3-7(b).

The new procedure encompasses both appellate review and de novo review by the reviewing courts. O.C.G.A. § 5-3-5. The new Act comprehensively deals with payment of costs, transcripts, transmission of the record, service, notification, supersedes, and other matters. O.C.G.A. § 5-3-7. It preempts any locally enacted law, ordinance, regulation, rule, or procedure in conflict with the new procedure. O.C.G.A. § 5-3-4(c).

The new Act does not impact the process of appealing a case to the Georgia Court of Appeals or the Georgia Supreme Court.

For more information, contact the SGR’s Litigation practice group.

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